We ARE Newsworthy

In the May issue of Camp editorial I wrote shortly after AIDS Walk when media was conspicuously absent, I asked the media to “cover us.” Although I’m sure that editorial did not prompt media to race to their keyboards and television cameras, there is still no doubt that issues in our community are indeed newsworthy.
If you’ve ever watched the KCPT program, “Week in Review” hosted by Nick Haines, you’ve no doubt seen some very spirited discussions from panelists from the local media. On Friday, June 16, I had the privilege of being asked to be on the show to discuss topics in the gay community that had been in the news lately. I was also invited to participate in the entire show on topics of other news in the Kansas City metro.
The panel included Micheal Mahoney, chief political reporter, KMBC9 News; Barbara Shelly, editorial page writer, Kansas City Star; Jerry Agar, Newstalk host, KMBZ Radio and me. The list of gay topics sent out in the advance e-mail to the panelists included The defeated Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution; Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon’s decision to end his appeal of a state ban on gay foster parents; St. Agnes’s church firing its choir director, Joseph Nadeau because he is also the musical director of the Heartland Men Chorus; and the Gay Pride issue of Camp with Mayor Kay Barnes humorously dressed up as a 1950s style housewife serving up a rainbow cake.
Other topics on the show included the new subdivision in Johnson County that will ban residents with sex offender status backgrounds; Clay Chastain’s new attempt once again to bring light rail to the Kansas City voters; and why the buzz is very silent regarding reelection of Congressmen Dennis Moore and Emanuel Cleaver this August when only two years ago their races were hot issues.
This having been my first time on a television discussion panel, I thought I could have done better with some answers. For example when asked my opinion about the ill-fated Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, I wish I had the foresight to think of what some have since said: “How hypocritical for George Bush to suggest we need a constitutional amendment to protect the will of the people from ‘activist courts’! Mr. Bush wouldn’t have won the 2000 election without activist courts.”
About Joe Nadeau being fired, the general opinion seemed to be that the church is a private institution; unless it was getting federal or state funding it had the right to its own rules. One panelist questioned why the many parishioners who supported Joe would want to remain members of that church. However. only 17 states and the District of Columbia have laws that include sexual orientation as a protected right for employment, and Kansas and Missouri are not in that group. The sad truth is that one can be fired for being gay.
When Jerry Agar said that we had no studies showing that gay people can be good foster parents, my quick response was, “And we don’t have any studies to say they can’t be good foster parents.” After the show, Brett Shirk, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, e-mailed me to say that there are numerous studies about gay parenting being beneficial to children and much of this can be found at the ACLU’s website, reinforced by this statement: “Every major mainstream child welfare and health organization opposes laws that ban lesbian and gay people from parenting because social science proves that lesbian and gay people are just as capable of being good parents as anyone else.”
I missed my chance to be a comedian when Nick Haines asked me about the possible ramifications of a subdivision deciding to forbid residents they decide are undesirable for one reason or another. My answer was that it could lead to stereotyping and abuse of Muslim people A better answer would have been, “Well they’d be crazy to outlaw homosexuals because who’d help with the landscaping advice?”
We’ve reached an important level in Kansas City politics when the mainstream press is covering LGBT issues in print, television and radio. KCPT may be a public television station but it’s important that they consider news in the gay community of equal interest to other topics of the week.

They’re not alone. The Gay Pride festival was covered in print and on television more than in previous years. And Mayor Kay Barnes on the cover of Camp was featured as a new storys on the front page of the Kansas City Star’s metro section and also got some humorous mention from The Pitch.
Three days before the program when I was asked to join the panel, I notified many of my contacts, who all sent out broadcast e-mails to their friends to watch the program. Both Missie B’s and OutABounds bars turned it on, even though it was a busy Friday night when they usually play music videos. We heard many applaud over some of the answers. It shows that gay people want a voice, just like any other group in Kansas City. The host, Nick Haines, told me after the taping that he thought it went very well. This week he got back to me in an e-mail and said, “the program on which you appeared had the highest rating of any of KCPT’s local public affairs programs that Friday night June 16th.” Thanks, KCPT, for providing
that opportunity.

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